TechnologyBest Buy is testing a tiny digital-first store that opens its doors...

Best Buy is testing a tiny digital-first store that opens its doors Tuesday

Best Buy is opening a digital-first, small-format store on Tuesday in Monroe, North Carolina, that takes a very different approach than most of its “big box” retail locations. The 5,000-square-foot location is only about 15 percent as big as the typical 35- to 40,000-square-foot Best Buy location and is even smaller than many smaller Apple Stores, which are typically between 6,000 to 8,500 square feet.

Bloomberg reported last year that Best Buy was testing downsized locations of about 27,000 square feet to as small as 15,000 square feet, but this is much smaller, squeezing nearer to the now-closed Best Buy Mobile footprint. This test store is in the Charlotte area, where Best Buy also launched five other test stores last year, trying experiences ranging from a remodel to an outlet-style approach.

Unlike Best Buy’s outlet stores and big locations that sport many large appliances and electronics, this new store will be equipped with a “curated selection” of Best Buy merchandise that includes large TVs, computers, headphones, wearables, cell phones, etc. What it doesn’t have any of, however, is large appliances.

The “digital first” store experience includes Best Buy’s website and apps — it also has lockers for online order pickups — but in-store, it starts as visitors are greeted at the entrance by a 7-foot screen with information on what the store has to offer.

Much like the Apple Store, you’ll be able to browse items on the sales floor, but with the exception of smaller items eligible for mobile self-checkout (charging cords, phone cases, and gift cards), most of them are simply display units. When you want to buy something, all you have to do is scan a QR code on the product to start Best Buy’s Just Scan It process. Someone will go to the back and bring out the item for you to purchase.

Fear not if you were worried about whether the location will contain blue shirt human interactions, as it includes members of the Geek Squad and has other consultation areas for customers in-store. You could also get live shopping help while in the store with an expert from someone in Best Buy’s “virtual store” via voice call, video call, or online chat.

Best Buy is just one retailer reevaluating its usual brick-and-mortar operating plans after customer behaviors shifted during the pandemic, as we’ve seen Walmart, for example, expand deliveries directly to your refrigerator. On the opposite end, Amazon opened a brick-and-mortar clothing store in May, implementing new technology to improve in-person shopping for things that an online experience can’t replace.

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